The American Farm Bureau Federation on April 16 urged USDA to reverse its decision to cancel livestock and crop surveys that are crucial to the success of America’s farmers and ranchers. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently announced it would no longer provide a July cattle inventory survey, as well as county-level estimates for crops and livestock and the objective yield survey for cotton.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to USDA to emphasize the importance of the surveys, particularly the July cattle report. “NASS’ two reports regarding the total U.S. cattle inventory, published on Jan. 31 and in late July, give farmers, ranchers, researchers and other data users a full picture of supplies in the U.S. cattle sector at the beginning and in the middle of each year. This allows for a fair assessment of the cattle market for the next six months. Eliminating the mid-year report puts the market in the dark for the second half of the year, removes market transparency and increases market volatility. Data will only be available to those who can afford to collect it, further threatening competition in the packing sector.”

Farmers are price takers not price makers and have no control over the markets in which their livestock is sold. Market transparency is essential where four companies control 85% of the cattle market.

The loss of the Objective Yield Survey for cotton may also increase the level of uncertainty throughout the summer and early fall for cotton markets, and the elimination of county yield estimates will undercut the research upon which risk management programs, including crop insurance, are based.

“Eliminating county-level yield and production data for crops and livestock will also severely impact research from our land-grant institutions and only place the U.S. farther behind its trade competitors,” President Duvall wrote. “Recent research by USDA’s Economic Research Service showed that the U.S. trails its global competitors in public agricultural research.”

Farm Bureau is disappointed in NASS’ decision to discontinue these critical reporting tools and urges the department to reconsider its decision.